In a move welcomed by campaigners, Britain’s biggest grocer will become the first major supermarket chain to ditch its throwaway bags.
From August 28, shoppers who forget their bags will still be able to buy one – but it will be a more expensive reusable one, made from thicker recycled plastic, costing 10p.
“It’s great to see major retailers moving away from disposable plastic. For too long we’ve seen plastic as something to be used once and thrown away,” said Louise Edge, senior campaigner at Greenpeace UK.
The move followed a 10-week trial in three stores in Norwich, Aberdeen and Dundee during which sales of single-use bags fell by 25 per cent. Bag sales have tumbled Tesco has given out 1.5 billion fewer single use bags since the introduction of the carrier bag charge in England in 2015, but still sells over 700 million of these each year.
The retailer hopes that removing single use carrier bags will significantly reduce the number of bags sold, helping reduce litter and bags sent to landfill.
Matt Davies, Tesco’s UK head, said: “The number of bags being bought by our customers has already reduced dramatically. Today’s move will help our customers use even fewer bags.”
Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey added: “I welcome Tesco wanting to go further and help their customers use even fewer plastic bags.”
The introduction of the 5p charge in England in October 2015 brought it into line with schemes already operating in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. About 8m tonnes of plastic makes its way into the world’s oceans each year, posing a serious threat to the marine environment. Official figures last July revealed that the number of single-use plastic bags used by shoppers in England plummeted by more than 85 per cent after the introduction.
More than 7bn bags were handed out by seven main supermarkets in the year before the charge, but this figure plummeted to slightly more than 500m in the first six months after the charge was introduced. However, while campaigners welcomed Tesco’s move they warned much work remains to be done to curb plastic pollution further – especially when it comes single-use bottles.
“The plastic bag charge has done wonders for reducing the number of bags polluting our coastlines and waters. Now we need to see the same for throwaway plastic bottles – a deposit return scheme which encourages collection,” Ms Edge said.